This was a highly anticipated match between two teams with similar records this season, playing for the same wild card spot in the Australasian Top Five. Both teams had won four of their six matches but neither had beaten a team above them on the ladder. With their best start to a season in their history, are the Rebels serious finals contenders? Are the Hurricanes back to the form that took them all the way to last year’s final?
Not for the first time this season, the Rebels were forced to make late changes to the starting side. Cruze Ah Nau came in for Toby Smith (concussion) and Sefa Naivalu for Mitch Inman (fractured thumb). Tim Metcher and Jonah Placid were promoted to the bench.
The Rebels started the match well by regaining possession from the kickoff and commencing a sustained attack on the ‘Canes try line. At the 7’30” mark, Adam Thomson barged over the line, with the ref Ryan “Hoff” Hoffman confirming the Try. Fireworks explode behind the goal while the ground announcer spruiks that this is the Rebels’ 100th try! Unfortunately, this was a case of premature celebration as the TMO decides the ball was held up.
Unfortunately, the big talking point after this game is over is no doubt going to be the state of the AAMI Park turf. The ensuing five-metre scrum is reset multiple times as the two forward packs absolutely shred the sandy base. For all the good they did, they may as well have set the scrum down on St Kilda beach. It’s an embarrassment, an embarrassment that has the potential to become an international incident. This ground will soon be hosting a test match and the playing surface is simply sub-standard. Imagine the headlines if one of England’s stars is seriously injured because of it.
Two minutes after the disallowed try, Dom Shipperley scores from a well-weighted kick put through from Tamati Ellison. Shipperley may have been advantaged somewhat as the last defender seemed to slip in the shifting sands of AAMI Park.
Sixteen minutes in and a lovely break and offload from Beauden Barrett allowed Victor Vito score for the visitors. Dom Shipperley is injured in an attempted tackle on Barrett and has to be helped from the field. Barrett nails the conversion.
From the kickoff, Jordy Reid secured a penalty right in front for the Rebels and Reece Hodge makes no mistake from the tee. The Rebels lead 8-7 and this looks like it’s going to be a cracking game!
A few minutes later, Jason Woodward executes a lovely chip kick to himself and passes to Cory Jane, who crosses the line untouched from 25 metres out. Two more tries to the Hurricanes come quickly, one from an intercepted pass on half way from Beauden Barrett and the other to Jason Woodward after a clever cross-field kick from Barrett found Julien Savea. Savea recycled the ball quickly allowing Woodward to pick up and score. The game is suddenly starting to look bleak for the home team.
The Rebels have had the lion’s share of both possession and territory throughout the half but found themselves down 26-8. The Hurricanes are masters at scoring from broken play and need few opportunities to punish the opposition. The ‘Canes line speed in defence killed any attacking chances for the Rebels and their speed and accuracy in moving the ball wide is beauty in motion.
The first ten minutes of the second half was all Hurricanes as they relentlessly attack the Rebels line. Eventually, Sean McMahon earned a yellow card for a cynical offence although. The replay showed that it may have been a case of mistaken identity. The Rebels defence was tested again and again until, at the sixty minute mark, the Hurricanes scored another Try. Ardie Savea pounced on a ball placed back over the try line by Luke Jones and score.
Beauden Barrett scored his second try of the game in fluky circumstances. With nothing really on he attempted a kick through. The ball ricocheted off Pat Leafa back into Barrett’s arms with no one in front of him.
The Rebels managed a late, consolation try after a good run and pass from Reece Hodge found Sefa Naivalu who beat a couple of defenders before passing to Cam Crawford to touch down.
The final score of 38-13 a fair indication of the gap in class between these two teams.
The Game Changer
After almost thirty minutes into what was then a tight match, Beauden Barrett’s intercept try from half way gave the visiting team all the momentum it needed to put the game well out of reach for the Rebels.
The G&GR MOTM
With eight runs for 145 metres, two tries, four conversions and a direct hand in two more tries Beauden Barrett was a stand out among a number of very good Hurricanes. His control of the game, creativity and variety cut the Rebels defence to pieces.
Although probably not in real contention for a Wallabies spot, Luke Jones and Jordy Reid both had strong games in a well beaten team. Sean McMahon, Chibba Hanson and Laurie Weeks were all solid but not outstanding. Sefa Naivalu will be eligible for the Wallabies later this year; he had some very good moments playing at Outside Centre in his first full game for the season, Rebels fans are looking forward to big things from him in coming games.
Score & Scorers
Tries: D. Shipperley (10′), C. Crawford (79′)
Penalties: R. Hodge (19′”)
Tries: V. Vito (16′), C. Jane (21′), B. Barrett (29′), J. Woodward (38′), A. Savea (60′), B. Barrett (76′)
Conversions: B. Barrett (18′, 30′, 39′, 78′)
Cards & citings
Sean McMahon – yellow card (~50′)